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Wonder kids

I try not to respond to every dumb blog post I read — there’s just too much out there to tempt me!

However, after I saw a link to this one, it led me to thinking about some responses I have, and I have an appreciation for any writing that leads me to think. So that’s my grudging appreciation for her ill-thought piece.

The writer is a mom who tells of her interactions with another mom of a “gifted” kid. The other mom seems to be pushing her son to perform in public, and this annoys my fellow blogger intensely.

I understand completely. The thing is: I understand both moms.

I won’t use any details that would identify particular parents, but let’s just say that I have met them, and I have probably even been them. These parents have kids who are truly wonderful, as most kids are. (I reserve the right to believe that there are a few kids out there who are not full of wonder, though I haven’t met them yet.) These kids, at home, are talkative, inventive, imaginative, and precocious. They memorize all the names of the dinosaurs. Or perhaps (like a child of mine) they become fascinated with learning all the different types of sushi (in Japanese, no less).

The parent gets used to enjoying this part of their relationship. “What kind of dinosaur is this, Johnny?” they ask, because they just love to see that three-year-old tongue twist around those long, Latin names, and because they love to see their son’s pleasure in acquiring this body of knowledge.

Problem is, then they’re in public and they do the same thing. But somehow it isn’t the same. Johnny, instead of answering in his usual adorable way, looks at them like he doesn’t even know who they are.

[Aside: one time when we were in Trader Joe’s, my 2-year-old daughter looked at me in dismay. “You’re not my mommy!” she cried out. “Who are you?” Thankfully, no one called CPS on me…]

The parents come off looking, at best, overly proud of their child’s putative achievements, and worse, those pushy “gifted” parents that really bother the rest of us. Like I said, I’m putting myself in both camps here.

So one thing about this blogger is that she can’t recognize that the mother’s intention was not necessarily to brag or make her feel bad. Her son is who he is. She celebrates him. Don’t we all do that with our kids, whether we’re celebrating their brains, their hearts, or their strong legs?

But the blog goes on: The writer chides us for having made our children this way through “coaching.” She admits, “It dawned on me that my permissiveness in exposing my kids to pop culture might be putting them at an intellectual disadvantage” and then she goes back to blaming other parents and implying that parents whose kids really like to learn the names of dinosaurs don’t want their kids to laugh, dance, and sing.

This reminds me of a family who have been longtime friends of my family. When their daughter was young, she formed a fascination for the British royal family. She knew everything about them. Her parents would buy her magazines with articles about them, and she had a detailed scrapbook and could go on, and on, and on with details and minutiae. Her parents even let her talk about her fascination in public! They even admitted to people, this kid knows everything about the royal family.

Here’s where this story changes: their daughter was learning disabled. Her parents knew that she would never get a PhD, and that she’d be lucky to be able to care for herself and have an independent life. (However, due to their capable raising of their child, she is in fact a self-supporting adult.)

Did they “push” their daughter into this fascination? Were they wrong to encourage and celebrate it? Of course not.

So then why is it wrong for parents of kids on the other side of the academic spectrum to do the same?

Let’s just admit this and move on: Families are different. Parents make different choices. The kids they get often determine aspects of their parenting, and their parenting does affect what kinds of kids they get.

So my blogger friend loves that her daughter loves to sing and dance. Of course she does! We all, good parents, celebrate our kids’ achievements, take pleasure in watching them develop their interests. Many of us, also, watch other kids sometimes in wistful fits of jealousy: “I wish my daughter could sing like that, but all she likes to do is math puzzles.”

But that’s just like admiring a beautiful dress that wouldn’t fit our bodies. Admiring the dress and thinking wistfully of being able to fit in it doesn’t mean you’re going to step out of your body and into another. You got what you got, and you learn to live with it.

Yeah, there are parents of really smart kids who think their kids are “better.” And, my blogger friend, there are parents of talented singers who think their kids are “better” and parents of socially popular kids who think their kids are “better.” So what?

So here’s my advice: If you think your kids are watching too much crap on TV, turn off the darn thing, cut the cable, and put on some music.

“Dance!” you say. “Sing!”

And then watch your wonder kids go.

Posted in Parenting.


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